The business that is and could be the drug war

Voice of Mexico 11 Aug, 2011

War means money. It's an ancient piece of wisdom, and apparently it can be applied to Mexico as well. Animal Político reports today that US firms have made almost 200 million dollars off the struggle against organized crime in Mexico in the last four years.


Private contractors in the United States have sold millions in know-how and technology used in the fight against organized crime groups. Much of the money comes from the Mérida Initiative, a 1,3 billion dollar aid package to the governments of Mexico and Central-American nations, intended on deterring transnational crime and drug trafficking. Analysts already indicated that much of the money from the Mérida Initiative never actually reaches Mexico or Central-America, and instead is paid to US firms.


Outsourcing armed conflict is nothing new to the US. The wars and Afghanistan and Iraq have required a good deal of services that the Pentagon found easier to be hired from private contractors. These aren’t always rowdy mercenaries with guns, but can be anything from cooks, drivers, technicians to, well, rowdy mercenaries with guns. In Iraq the presence of private contractors became controversial, after several employees of security contractor Blackwater were killed in Iraq several years ago.


In Mexico’s case, the use of contractors is relatively new and so far limited to ‘war technology’. However, this may change in the near future. As one analyst put it: “Private security firms are dying to leave Afghanistan and Iraq, and move into Mexico.”


There is plenty of money to make for contractors in Mexico. In Iraq, for example, contractors were hired to train security forces and guard oil pipelines. Training of Mexican law enforcement personnel is one thing contractors would be very much willing to do. And clandestine tapping of oil from pipelines exploited by Mexico’s national oil company Pemex are becoming an increasing problem.


Mexico, however, will be careful in accepting private contractors from the US on Mexican soil in a context of bilateral law enforcement. Earlier this week the Mexican government announced that CIA personnel is now active in the country, to assist Mexican law enforcement. Congress was not amused, and demands from the Government Secretariat (Segob) that the role of the CIA is explained to them as soon as possible.


American (armed) presence on Mexican soil has been a touchy subject ever since the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. Foreign government personnel are strictly forbidden to carry arms on Mexican soil. However, the United Nations has on various occasions indicated that there are reports of US private security firms active in Mexico, but on behalf of private Mexican customers.


With bilaterial cooperation between Mexico and the US at an all-time high, the rowdy American mercenaries may actually become a reality in Mexico sooner than we'd think.

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